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This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Sparklehorse + Fennesz April 10, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....

I mentioned last week the death of Mark Linkous at a dismally early age of 47. Malcolm McLaren this week. Alex Chilton too has gone. And I noted that Vic Chestnutt had died. For the latter two there are interesting Slate Cultural Gabfest (well worth tuning in regularly if you don’t already) podcasts.

Here though is one of the last artifacts from Linkous, a collaboration with experimental Austrian musician, Christian Fennesz. The album, In The Fishtank, is one of a series where a Dutch music distributor pulls together bands to work on a joint project. That Sonic Youth and Tortoise, Low and Willard Grant Conspiracy have been involved tells you something of the nature of the exercise. The latest was In the Fishtank 15 which was the Linkous/Fennesz album, or mini-album.

Fennesz was an interesting individual to have work with Linkous. His own work has been largely positioned in IDM and electronica, but other collaborations have included Sakamoto and David Sylvian.

Sparklehorse? Well, what to say, other than that Linkous was a master of his craft. My favorite album is Good Morning Spider from 1998 which blended a multitude of sounds together from something like punk to ambient to alt.country and almost everything in between all tied together by a melancholy informed by his own brush with death after a drug reaction just prior to the making of the album (how else to interpret Painbirds – surely one of his finest melodies?).

And Sparklehorse and Fennesz?
Well, perhaps it’s a shared interest in ambient sounds and textures, but from the first track Music Box of Snakes we get an almost dreamlike collage and layering of sounds from which on occasion Linkous’ voice emerges wistfully singing fragments of melodies rather than complete songs, as on Goodnight Sweetheart where he repeats the same refrain throughout.

The music itself though… well, much of it is more sound, more textures than music. But in between the crackles, hiss, static, the sequenced crackles, hiss and static, the reverbed crackles, hiss, static, the guitars treated to sound like crackles, hiss, static, the snippets of conversations that sound like crackles, hiss and static and so on is a remarkably warm, human, series of tracks or excursions or… whatever you want to call them. From the two ‘guitar pieces’, one from Linkous, one from Fennesz to the two tracks with vocals on them all the slightly tricksy background sounds don’t detract one bit from a bittersweet tone. There’s a wash of keyboard halfway through Music Box of Snakes which although I’m sure I’ve heard it elsewhere before somehow in the context of the sounds that make up the track sounds entirely fresh. And that’s true of so much of it.

Just about the most poignant tribute one could think of.

Music Box of Snakes

Goodnight Sweetheart


More Live (and there’s a lot more where this came from on YouTube, albeit Fennesz is not always in attendance)


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